COVID-19 vaccinations could begin in Quebec in early 2021, Arruda says
Public health director tells Daybreak most vulnerable could receive dose in 1st quarter of 2021
The province's public health director says COVID-19 vaccines in the province could begin as early as the first few months of 2021, with at-risk Quebecers first in line to get them.
Dr. Horacio Arruda made the comment in a wide-ranging interview Thursday with CBC Montreal Daybreak host Mike Finnerty.
Here are some other highlights from the interview, edited for clarity.
What do you need to see happen in order to authorize us to leave the red zone restrictions in Montreal?
What's important is the number of cases that appear everyday. Each time there are cases, there is risk of transmission and secondary cases. The other issue is, also, the number of outbreaks and how the teams of public health have the capacity to control and lower the number of outbreaks. It's not only the number, it's also the quantity of cases for each outbreak.
The other issue is the impact of those cases. Are they in the hospitals? Do they die? All of this is to save lives, it's true, but it's also to maintain our capacity of treating other conditions like cancer and surgeries.
People were wearing masks indoors. Distancing was fairly well respected. I think a lot of people are trying to understand what happened. How well do you understand what set off the second wave?
You know, that's a very good question. I would tell you that, like everywhere else in the world, the virus is a very tough virus. It went down this summer but the virus was still circulating. Suddenly, because of different conditions like reopening schools and having more normal lives, the virus attacks you. There is a very tiny equilibrium between going back to a certain normalcy and the risk of this virus spreading again.
The timing of the second wave led many people to conclude that it was due to the return to school or the way we brought schools back in. What rule do you think schools played in the second wave?
We knew that we would have some outbreaks. But it's not only schools. There are outbreaks in schools, but not big ones. You must also understand that if we close schools for a long time, there is a big impact on youth, their mental health and their development. There are parties. There are outbreaks in different settings like workplaces or in sports teams or in bars. Schools are a part of it but they are not the principal drivers.
Is it safe to have a restaurant that has good ventilation, that has careful service, that has distanced tables and people who move around wearing masks? Can that be done safely?
Yes, I think it can be done safely. It's clear they won't be the same restaurants we knew before the pandemic. But it's really something we are looking forward to because we know the impact on mental health as well as the economic impact. We must [eventually] reopen some businesses because we will lose the collaboration of the population if the rules are too strict. The October challenge was just so we don't keep going up in the red.
The opposition wants your news conferences to be separated from the Premier's and the Health Minister's to make a clear distinction between science and politics. Do they have a good point?
It's true that I'm an assistant deputy minister but I'm also Quebec's public health director. I think I can influence the Premier more if I'm in the right place to have influence than if I'm completely independent. Even if, sometimes, the decision that the government takes can be a little different from our recommendations, in that moment we are comfortable with that situation. If there was an issue — and they know this — I would not be with them at all.
Your counterparts in Germany think they may be able to vaccinate health care workers before the end of the year. The Pfizer vaccination may be ready. When might we see a vaccination here?
I think in the spring. It always depends on the last authorization of the vaccine to make sure it's safe. But I think by the beginning of 2021 — even in the first month — probably we'll be able to have some doses and begin vaccinations for high-risk populations.
Listen to the full interview below: